|Acanthodactylus margaritae Tamar, Geniez, Brito et Crochet, 2017|
Recent molecular phylogenies of the Acanthodactylus pardalis species-group have revealed a deep genetic divergence within the nominal species A. busacki from north-west Africa. The species is phylogenetically separated into northern and southern lineages, which correspond to a previously observed morphological differentiation between the northern and southern populations of this species. Based on morphological comparisons of the type material and location of the type locality, the nomen Acanthodactylus busacki Salvador, 1982 is assigned here to the southern lineage, known from the northern Saharan Atlantic coastal desert. The northern lineage, described here as Acanthodactylus margaritae sp. nov., is prominently characterized by weakly keeled dorsal scales and a characteristic colour pattern. The new species is endemic to Morocco and confined to arid and semi-arid bioclimatic areas between the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains, from around Tamri in the north to Tiznit in the south and the Souss valley in the east.
Keywords: Reptilia, Atlas Mountains, evolution, lizards, pardalis species-group, phylogeny, taxonomy
Acanthodactylus margaritae sp. nov.
Chresonyms: Acanthodactylus busacki Salvador, 1982: 88 (part.)
Acanthodactylus pardalis Bedriagai Arnold, 1983: 319 (part.)
Acanthodactylus bedriagai Harris & Arnold 2000: 352 (part.)
Acanthodactylus busacki Mellado & Dakki 1988: 175 (part.); Mellado & Olmedo 1990: 133 (part.); Bons & Geniez 1996: 162 (part.); Schleich et al. 1996: 391 (part.); Geniez et al. 2004: 102 (part.); Brito et al. 2008: 21 (part.); Sindaco & Jeremčenko 2008: 218 (part.); Fonseca et al. 2008: 9 (part.); Harris el al. 2010: 22 (part.); Barata et al. 2011: 7 (part.); Carretero et al. 2011: 139 (part.); Trape et al. 2012: 302 (part.); Pyron et al. 2013: 17 (part.); Tamar et al. 2016: 8 (part.)
Etymology. The specific epithet “ margaritae ”, a noun in the genitive case, honours Dr Margarita Metallinou who tragically lost her life during field-work in Africa in July 2015. The new species is dedicated to Margarita Metallinou from all the authors in recognition of her passion, interest and strong contribution to the study of reptile systematics (especially of geckoes of the genera Stenodactylus and Ptyodactylus) and to her friendship over the years.
Distribution. Acanthodactylus margaritae sp. nov. is endemic to Morocco, .... Its range is limited by the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains to the north, east and south, and is entirely included in the arid and semi-arid climates with warm or temperate winters (Bons & Geniez 1996).
Natural history. Acanthodactylus margaritae sp. nov. is a ground-dwelling, diurnal, oviparous, medium-sized lizard, relatively large and stout-bodied. It mostly inhabits stony plains with fine grained soils, stable sands and fixed dunes, or hard clay grounds with scarce low vegetation but also, especially in the Souss valley, open argan tree forests. It is often sympatric with Acanthodactylus aureus in the coastal area, though the latter species prefers softer, looser sands.
Karin Tamar, Philippe Geniez, José C. Brito and Pierre-André Crochet. 2017. Systematic Revision of Acanthodactylus busacki (Squamata: Lacertidae) with A Description of A New Species from Morocco. Zootaxa. 4276(3); 357-386. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4276.3.3